Staab to Receive the Byler Distinguished Faculty Award
Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (April 9, 2014) – Nationally known for his scholarly work and considered a talented and dedicated teacher by his students and peers, Jim Staab is receiving the University of Central Missouri’s highest honor for faculty members.
Staab, a professor in the Department of Government, International Studies, and Languages, will receive the Byler Distinguished Faculty Award during the spring 2014 commencement Saturday, May 10. In addition to being honored during graduation exercises, Staab also will be recognized for his achievement during an award reception set for 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 17, in the Art Center Gallery. The public is invited to attend the event, which also includes an introduction of other Byler Award nominees.
The Byler Award is considered the most prestigious recognition for UCM faculty members. It is named for William H. Byler, an inventor, author and teacher who graduated from UCM in 1927 with a major in chemistry and physics. He established an endowment fund to provide annual recognition for distinguished faculty performance, evidenced by teaching, scholarly or creative activity and professional-related service.
Staab joined UCM as an assistant professor in 1998, after earning his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. He climbed the faculty ranks at UCM to become an associate professor in 2001, full professor in 2005, and in 2006 was named interim chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography. He then served as chair of the department from 2007-2011. In 2011, Staab became coordinator of the newly named Department of Government, International Studies, and Languages, and after serving at that post for a year, he was named department chair for 2012-2013.
Honored previously with the Governor’s Excellence in Education Award, Staab regularly teaches courses related to American Government, Public Law and the Judicial Process, Civil Rights and Liberties, American Constitutional Law, the American Presidency, and the First Amendment. He also serves as pre-law advisor to UCM students who are hoping to pursue careers in the legal field.
“Pre-law students know that Dr. Staab’s classes are excellent training for law school,” wrote Gregory Streich, coordinator for the political science program, in his nomination letter for Staab. “Dr. Staab incorporates a variety of pedagogical techniques depending on the level and content of courses, and his classroom style is interactive, energetic, informative and challenging.”
Staab seeks to simulate real-life experiences in the classroom, whenever possible. This includes incorporating role-playing exercises such as Moot Court in his law-related courses to connect course content to the “real world” applications of law, according to Streich.
His knowledge of politics and the judicial system have helped increase public awareness of the university and the quality of its faculty. When U.S. President Barack Obama spoke at UCM in July 2013, Kansas City television station KSHB 41 turned to Staab as an expert source, inviting his comments during a live post-speech interview following the president’s remarks. Staab’s comments on political and judicial issues have appeared in local and campus media, as well as publications such as The Kansas City Star, USA Today, Reuters, Washington Post and many more.
Staab’s research and writing has led to published articles in scholarly journals, book chapters, op-ed pieces and one published book. He carefully researched and wrote the non-polemical book on Justice Antonin Scalia, titled “The Political Thought of Justice Antonin Scalia: A Hamiltonian on the Supreme Court,” which resulted in a visit to campus and speech by Justice Scalia in March 2008. Staab served as moderator for that event.
His desire to mentor and create positive relationships with students has contributed to exceptional instructor evaluations over the years. Staab continually receives high praise from his students, who say he is caring and is a positive influence.
Christina Parle, a student who has held leadership posts as president of the Student Government Association and president of the Honors College Student Association, said “Dr. James Staab has been one of the most influential people in my life.” She called him the “epitome of what Learning to a Greater Degree symbolizes,” noting that his dedication to future-focused academics has included bringing nationally known speakers to campus. He also promotes a strong culture of service by encouraging students to get involved in organizations that allow them to help others and make a contribution to society.
“As a first-generation college student, I arrived at the University of Central Missouri largely unprepared for success at the college level. Dr. Staab immediately engaged me in the rigorous life of a college student,” she said. “I finished American Government with a 101 percent and had gathered a vast amount of knowledge on the topic.”
Staab said he is humbled to receive the Byler Award, being selected among “many outstanding UCM faculty who are equally deserving of such recognition.
"I am particularly honored to be included among such a distinguished list of past Byler Award recipients at UCM. Through Dr. William F. Byler's generosity and foresight faculty have a unique opportunity to connect with one another (past, present, and future) and to celebrate excellence in teaching and scholarship," Staab said.
True to his commitment to Learning to a Greater Degree and future-focused academics, he stressed the value of teaching students how to live in a democratic society.
"I appreciate teaching at a public university such as UCM. I have always been sympathetic to Thomas Jefferson's vision of public education in a democracy. If the people want to truly govern themselves they need to be knowledgeable about and actively engaged in public affairs,” Staab said.
He added, “I am proud to teach at an institution that consciously attempts to make higher education affordable for students."